Content of the article: "It’s more important for your party to FEEL threatened than to BE threatened."
So this is something of a design Philosophy that I've been stumbling upon that's just an interesting approach that can supplement the skills of anyone like me who's somewhat hit-or-miss on their encounter design, but also has other applications.
I've been pretty generous to my party on the potions. Maybe too generous, but it's workable. And one of the major effects I've seen is that my party has been able to work through encounters that were noticably harder than I maybe wanted them to be, because they effectively have a lot more health than their character sheets say they do.
And I'm okay with this- reasonable descriptions of attacks and the odd critical hit mean that my players consistently feel threatened regardless of their buffer of hp potions. My players genuinely seem to feel like if they're dipping into their potion reserve, that's a sign that things are getting intense, instead of a reason not to care.
I don't think I've even knocked people unconscious more than 2 or 3 times is 6 months of weekly games, and it hasn't stopped them from feeling a good tension that encourages cautious behavior and thinking their actions through.
But it's got broader applications than that- How many times have you had a DM ask you for a perception check, or a saving throw, and felt a sense of dread? What if they ask for the roll and never say anything?
How many times have you heard the sound of dice being rolled behind the DM screen for no apparent reason and been spooked?
And how many times might the DM have been messing with you the whole time?
Because these are all useful tools- you can play without things like passive perception simply by rolling spontaneously where your players don't see the result, asking for saves to represent that danger exists… But not implementing it's effects, only the fear of what it might do.
Obviously actually being threatened is one of the most direct ways to make your players feel threatened, and none of this would ever be a total replacement, but you can supplement your actual threats with fake ones to encourage tension even when you're just bluffing, and methods that take away from the actual danger without detracting from the tension can be a powerful way to give yourself a little more wiggle room in encounter difficulty.
- Feedback on Travel Framework
- Making passive perception less static.
- I flinch and pull back whenever it looks like my PCs are in mortal danger – how can I overcome this?
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